Have you ever driven a 30 foot motor home that contains everything you own, your loved ones and pulling your vehicle? Ok, so that alone seems like it could be pretty stressful in itself if you ask me. Especially with being a newbie. Some of you are probably thinking “Yes, I do it every day.”, “I’ve never thought about it.”, “That sounds terrifying.”, “Why would you do something like that?”, or “What’s your point?”
Well, here it goes. Yes, putting all of your eggs in one basket is beyond stressful and dangerous but what happens when the stakes get even higher than normal? What happens when you suddenly stare death in the face? I’ll tell you what……you don’t laugh like most people say. You get down on your knees and thank the good lord for your life and safety. That is, after you can gain enough composure to stop shaking uncontrollably.
The day started off with a destination in mind, Deadwood, SD, and ended with that destination. However, it was not as smooth as expected. Wanda had finally been fixed enough to continue our trip and get to Deadwood for some much needed Rest and Relaxation……and being tourists, I’m not going to lie. We got up early-ish and got on the road. If you have ever driven a big vehicle through the plains of Wyoming you will know what I’m talking about. Holy WIND! Hours of driving in, against and with the wind we were ecstatic to finally see the South Dakota line. Finally, we were almost at our destination.
Now, I know you are probably thinking, big deal, just some wind. I agree, now. But this isn’t the story. The story is this: We get in to South Dakota and it is nothing but Mountains with steep grades. At this point I am driving through tiny towns with barely enough room to drive down the roads let alone they are going straight downhill. Naturally I switched down in to a lower gear and tried to not ride my brakes. This is incredibly difficult when you are going at an 8% grade downhill being pushed by the weight of not only your motorhome but also the dolly and Jetta. I am down in 2nd gear at this point and just hoping for a break and some flat land, or maybe even some uphill. After what felt like forever, I did get a little break. That didn’t last long. We pull in to Deadwood and it’s a whole lot more of the same thing. At this point I am really worried about the brakes. I shift down in to first and quickly go back to 2nd gear because it sounds like the engine is going to explode. Please keep in mind that I am new to driving something this large and I am quickly realizing that I wish I would have had some sort of a course on how to drive this beast.
Well, we are once again coming down a steep grade and I see a sign that is for the RV Park we had reserved. Finally, there is an end in sight…..or is there?!?!? The GPS is taking us past the point of the sign, but that doesn’t matter. The brakes are gone and we couldn’t stop even if we tried. Yes, you read that correctly, the brakes are GONE! Now I am beyond panicked and have no idea what to do. My heart is beating out of my chest, I break out into an instant sweat and start to shake in ways I never knew were possible. I shift down in to first and gain a little control. Just enough to make the turn the GPS is taking us to. Now it looks like we are going down a dead end and straight up the hill. As I am still freaking out because I had no breaks I have Jason yelling at me telling me there is no way this is the way we need to go. I quickly snap back that I don’t know, this is just what the GPS is saying and I don’t know what he wants from me, I don’t have breaks and this is what it says to do. So, halfway up the hill I pull over to make a call to the RV Park to see if we are on the right track. At this point I am shaking uncontrollably and am ordered to get out of the seat because I am being dramatic. HAHAHAHA, I wish that was the case. Well, we figure out that we are going the wrong way and we have no idea how to back up a 30 foot RV with a Jetta attached. Again, newbies.
We decide it’s time to take the Jetta off and hook up the backup camera and hope for the best with getting Wanda back down the hill. The key word here is HOPE. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Wanda still did not have breaks. Jason realized very quickly what I was going through and that I wasn’t being dramatic. I’m about 20 feet behind the RV in the Jetta screaming STOP!!!! Yeah, this was pointless, there is no way he could hear me, but you know how instincts work. I see the dolly whip around the passenger side of Wanda, a piece of the compartment snap off and the dolly smash in to the side of Wanda. I guess at this point we were lucky. Without that dolly on Wanda she would have rolled straight down the hill, in to me and then in to someone’s home. I can’t even be mad at this point. I am just happy that she was able to stop and that it wasn’t worse.
Now, you aren’t going to believe this but we are broken down right outside of a mechanic’s house. No joke, I couldn’t even make this up if I tried. I don’t know if you are a believer or not, but I am and I thanked the good Lord for watching over us and blessing us with life and a solution. This mechanic comes out of his house and we immediately start apologizing for being broken down in front of his house and tell him what’s going on. He lets us know we are in luck and that he will take a look at it. Obviously we let out a huge sigh of relief, thank him uncontrollably and tell him how appreciative we are of him. To make a 40 minute overlook of Wanda short, the guy let us know that we just used our breaks too much and they became “Glass”. Meaning that they needed to cool down, get some brake fluid back in the lines and that we needed a new master cylinder. At this point we are terrified to drive her, let alone back her up or turn her around. This kind man took that burden off of us and turned her around, told us where to go and told us to pay it forward. What a kind hearted man that we are forever indebted to.
Now, we are back on the road and make it to the RV Park (Whistler Gulch) just in time to check in. We get Wanda set up and decide that heavy drinking and celebrating is in order. And that is what we did. We also told everyone we saw how blessed we were, our terrifying experience and that they were looking at two almost dead people. People loved the story and went on to tell our story to other people they were working with. After all, a story like this is too good to not tell and too unbelievable to not believe, if that even makes sense.
So, back to the introduction. After having a couple drinks and having my nerves calmed down I reflected on the situation. Oh my gosh, I could have just lost everything. My home (Wanda), my Jetta and most importantly, my boys. How incredibly terrifying! So, stressful isn’t even an accurate word to describe this horrifying experience. All your eggs in one basket may be a bad idea but I thank the Lord every day for my life and that of my boys.
So, lesson learned:
- Losing your breaks is no joke
- Shifting in to 1st gear is OK. It won’t blow up your engine
- Take a course on driving a vehicle this large before buying one and going on the road full time
- Thank your lucky stars every single day
- The brake ramps on highways are not because people are going too fast to stop. It is for heavy vehicles who lose their breaks.
- The break check areas on highways are needed. These spots are genius. You need to be able to check your brakes and let them cool down.
- Respect large vehicles going downhill cautiously. This kind of caution is a matter of life and death
- Thank your lucky stars every day……yes, I know I already said that but this cannot be expressed enough.